Friday, October 27, 2006

Miscellaneous Catch-up

Finally having a chance to catch my breath, it’s time for a blog update.

The demo went well. The last presentation of the day was given by my advisor. His title slide was “Camera Ab Initio.” [High school flashback: Magistra pulcherimma and her latin moments.]

The housekeeping staff noticed that “it’s pretty tight” in our office. I guess I had gotten used to the fact that we squeeze 8 into space designed for 7.

One of the Chinese students in our group has the best ring tone for his phone. It’s the “Star Spangled Banner”.

I saw a couple movies lately. Netflix delivered “Thank You for Smoking” which I enjoyed. Rating: 8.2/10. Interesting lesson in debate and argument.

I end up watching DVDs with subtitles most of the time. Does anyone else do this? Anyway, I was amused by the first few lines of text when the 20th Century Fox intro was playing. “[Drumroll]” “[Rousing orchestral fanfare playing]” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I also saw “Little Miss Sunshine”. I’d rate it a 7.3/10. Quite funny at points. Very amusing group dynamic.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I haven't been able to post lately because setting up for the DARPA demo has been consuming [all] my time. I also need to finish writing my Master's thesis. More updates will follow, but I right now, I need to put blogging on standby.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Last weekend, I ran the Duke Physical Therapy sponsored 5K in 24:40. (Mile pace: 7:58)

I also saw the Departed. I’d recommend it.

This is certainly not important is the overall scheme of things but it made me laugh:

My radiation physics professor is clearly not an expert in pn junctions. In class someone asked how one was made, and he explained that you simply put two pieces of Silicon together. For the non scientist, that’s like saying you build all the levels of a skyscraper on the ground and then stack them on top of each other.

People were passing out bibles the other day. My question is this: If someone takes a bible and later decides “this isn’t for me”, how are they supposed to get dispose of it? I expect someone might get upset if the bible was thrown out (or for that matter, burned). When people try to hand out fliers for stuff they generally don’t get very upset if you just throw it on the ground 10 feet later. Seems like the bible people would.

I just casually did the Chronicle’s [Friday] Sudoku in 20 minutes.

We have another demo for DARPA next week.

It is the fall pledge drive for my favorite classical radio station, WCPE. They stream online, too. [] I gave them a donation to show my support. (Recently they played Wynton Marsalis’s “Canon for Three Trumpets And Strings”. It’s a good one, but you already know I’m a fan of Pachelbel's Canon variations.)

On my way to work I passed a man on a bicycle. He ran a red light. Last time I checked, that’s illegal for cars and bicycles! Not a very good way of getting more drivers to share the road. Hypocrite.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Do you hear what I hear?

Wednesday night Mike, Mohan, and I were stranded in Rochester because of rain in NYC, our connecting city. So it was quite late, and we were at Applebee’s having a small snack and drink. At one point I must have looked pretty focused and the waitress asked Mike/Mohan about me. “Is he communicating? Did he just phone home?”

No, I was not, simply ITZ [in the zone]. I was realizing a musical connection between the song on the radio and Pachelbel's Canon in D. Mohan and Mike were skeptical, but “Can’t Stop Loving You” by Phil Collins has the same chord progression. Right now I probably do sound pretty crazy, but Wikipeida verifies:

Wikipedia also brought to my attention the piece influence on “Basket Case” by Green Day and Burger King’s jingle. [Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us.]

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

More from Rochester

Before my talk, Mohan, Scott, and I were utilizing the free wireless internet from the adjacent hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt, which was nice, but they make you pay for everything. I overheard a passerby complaining that he took the wrong voltage adapter for his Blackberry and his battery was almost dead. I offered to help out a fellow member of the Research in Motion family and helped him out with a power-up. The guy turned out to be a former OSA President, Peter Knight from Imperial College in London.

My talk Monday afternoon went well. When I had practiced before, I found that I was taking a long time. I picked up the pace during the actual presentation and ended up finishing slightly early. I was probably talking too fast, so next time I’ll have to remember to slow down.

The OSA student reception was held Monday night at some Western style bar downtown. Funny story, I ran into Connor, who was in high school band with me. Sure enough, he ended up in grad school, too. There was also a bowling alley downstairs so Scott, Mohan, Kelly, and I played a game. I won with a score somewhere between 110 and 120. Overall I had a good time. Mohan has some pictures on his camera phone.

Later that night, I went out with another friend from high school, Austin. We met up with Chris. Good times, great oldies.

[For the time being, my moratorium on beer no longer exists.]


Friday, October 13, 2006

My glass is half full

A few of us from the DISP group ate breakfast at the hotel one day. The menu listed the buffet as an option. One of the items as listed in the menu was the chef’s daily creation (or something similar). I asked our waiter what the creation of the day was. He did not have any answer other than “nobody’s ever asked that before.” Steve, Scott and Mohan all agreed that of all people, I’d be the one to ask.

Also unsatisfying was their overwhelming selection of nonfat yogurt. Why doesn’t anyone have yogurt with normal fat level anymore? It just tastes better.

Orange juice came with our breakfast buffet. I had a glass, but just wanted a little bit more. While I was getting more food, I asked Steve to relay my instruction of getting exactly half a glass of juice when the waiter came back. I returned to a nearly full glass (~90%). What was his problem? Was I not clear enough? I proceeded to drink my requested volume and left the rest on the table.


Flying to Rochester

Sunday I flew up to Rochester on JetBlue Airways with a connection in JFK. My first time on the airline was pretty fun. They had TVs in the seats with 40 channels of DirecTV. One of the channels was also the map of our journey with altitude and speed information. Moderately cool, but I ended up turning mine off for most of the time and reading/napping.

At JFK, we at ate the New York Sports Grill. The experience was terrible. The service was extremely slow, and my food was really bad. The only reason I didn’t care that much was because we had a 2 hour layover.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

OSA Annual Meeting

Tomorrow I'm heading up to Rochester, NY for the Optical Society of America (OSA) Annual Meeting. I will return Wendesday night. My talk is on Monday, so I still have a little bit of time to finish up my Powerpoint slides. After running this morning with Daniella, I pretty much worked all day on my presentation. Not quite there yet, but I'll be ready.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Annual Fund Executive Committee Meeting

Hank and crew planned a great meeting this past weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the sessions on Friday because of the DARPA lab visit. However, I was able to attend the Nursing School Opening/Dedication Ceremony. Becky and I heard the speeches, took the tours, and of course indulged in the food. [Some of the deserts were quite good.] We also saw some GPSC friends Audrey and Josh, and also Swatee.

Saturday brought yet another Duke Football Homecoming loss against Virginia (0-37). Here’s my favorite classic Duke moment. It’s 4th down and we’re punting from our own 10 yard line. The punter sets up on the goal line, while we all scream that he is way to close to the line of scrimmage. Probably afraid of getting a safety, we hike the ball and with little surprise the punt is blocked. They recover within the 5 and score a touchdown on the next play.

Saturday night Daniella and I went to the Founders’ Societies Reception on the new Student Plaza [It’s basically bigger and better walkway to the student union.] Anyway, that was a great deal of fun. The food was fairly fancy; crazy gourmet pizza was served, for example. We talked with Provost Peter Lange, President Richard Broadhead, and their wives. Not really sure how to describe that other than they all seem pretty nice.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics Annual Symposium

As part of the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics Annual Symposium, Charles H. Townes gave a lecture on Thursday. He won (half) the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics “for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle”.

Wednesday, I wondered if Dr. Townes had written any books. I found out he wrote “How the Laser Happened” as well as some others. So, I decided to obtain a copy. Local bookstores were out of stock, so I decided to order online from Now, you might ask, “What can Brown do for me?” Overnight delivery with UPS got me the book in less than 24 hours. That afternoon, I was able to get the Nobel laureate to sign it. “Best wishes to Andrew Portnoy. Chas H. Townes”

The best parts of the lecture were most definitely the anecdotes. Most notably he recalled Bell Lab’s reluctance to patent the laser/maser work. They had said, “Light’s never been used for communications before.” He also talked about Neils Bohr’s skepticism. [Niels Henrik David Bohr won (all) the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them.” He was also a member of the tribe.]